JPL’s ‘99.9%’ Prediction of Major Earthquake in L.A. Area Sparks Controversy

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The magnitude 5.1 La Habra earthquake last year was the biggest temblor to strike the metro L.A. area since 2008. Now, a scientific fight has broken out over how soon another similar earthquake could strike.

The controversy began after a report, co-written by a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the journal Earth and Space Science, said there was a 99.9% chance of a magnitude 5 or larger earthquake in the greater Los Angeles area by April 2018.

But that forecast was immediately disputed by the U.S. Geological Survey, the nation's lead agency overseeing earthquake science, which says there is an 85% chance of such a quake.

The battle pivoted on two key questions: How certain can scientists be of when the next big earthquake will come? Can the dream of earthquake prediction come true?

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